In the encoding of narrative episodes, the hippocampus exhibits memory-predictive activity time-locked to stimulus offset. In real life, however, events usually occur in succession, raising the question of how the immediate offline processing of one event is affected by presentation of another. To address this issue, participants were presented with brief narrative movie clips in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. Each clip was immediately followed by an additional, unrelated, clip; by a visually scrambled clip with background auditory noises; or by a fixation cross. Memory for the gist of the clips was tested outside the scanner in a cued-recall test 20 min after termination of the study session. The hippocampus responded at the offset of each clip, even when a second clip was presented in immediate succession, suggesting that the hippocampus processes each brief clip as a discrete event. Presentation of a second narrative clip, and to a lesser degree of a scrambled clip, retroactively interfered with memory for the first clip. In parallel, the offline response of the posterior hippocampus to the first movie was reduced. In the anterior hippocampus, presentation of a second clip did not reduce the overall offline response but significantly reduced the difference in activity between remembered and forgotten clips. These findings are in line with the proposition that immediate offline hippocampal activity reflects registration of episodes to memory and suggest a potential brain correlate of retroactive interference.
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